The unique health benefits of amaranth include its ability to stimulate growth and repair, reduce inflammation, prevent certain chronic diseases, boost bone strength, lower blood pressure, improve the immune system, reduce the appearance of varicose veins, maintain healthy hair, and ease weight loss efforts.
What is Amaranth?
Although many varieties of amaranth are considered a weed, there are some varieties in the genus that are cultivated as leafy vegetables and types of cereal grain, as well as for the perennial plant’s valuable essential oils. Scientifically categorized in the Amaranthus genus, the seeds of the amaranth plant have been valued for thousands of years, particularly by the indigenous cultures of Central America and Mexico. Ancient cultures depended on it as a major staple of their diet, due to its high concentration of protein, minerals, and vitamins. It has since been exported to other parts of the world, including Europe and North America, but it is still primarily grown and consumed in Central America.
Both the leaves and the seeds of amaranth are valuable in terms of human health. Whether you choose to consume it as a leaf vegetable, a cereal grain or grain flour depends on what health benefits you are seeking out. The root itself is also consumed as a root vegetable and has a rich mixture of minerals and nutrients. Considering the versatility and high concentration of antioxidants and phytosterols, amaranth is one of the most valuable foods that you may have ever heard of.
Health Benefits of Amaranth
Let’s take a closer look at the amazing health benefits of Amaranth.
Rich in Protein
This is definitely the most well-known aspect of amaranth that makes it such a valuable food source for so many cultures. A high protein concentration means that the body can break those plant proteins down into usable amino acids which can be reformed into usable proteins. Protein is essential for growth and the creation of new cells and tissues, as well as for more immediate energy needs and metabolic functionality. It contains a higher protein concentration than almost any other grain on the market. Moreover, even the leaves of the amaranth contain beneficial proteins.
Most people pay attention to amaranth because of its high protein content, making it a crucial nutrient source for certain cultures. There has been new research revealing that it contains a certain peptide, which has also been identified in soybeans as it can reduce inflammation in the body and even prevent the activity of free radicals that can cause healthy cells to mutate into cancerous cells. This lesser-known benefit of amaranth is one of the most exciting new developments in recent amaranth research. This anti-inflammatory molecule can also help to alleviate conditions like arthritis, gout, and other inflammation-related issues.
Improves Bone Quality
Amaranth leaves contain a wide range of minerals, including a high concentration of calcium. There are very few leafy vegetables that contain higher levels of calcium, making it a veritable superfood in terms of boosting bone strength and preventing osteoporosis. Calcium is a crucial mineral for preventing demineralization of the bones, extending your “active life” well into your old age.
Amaranth is also a gluten-free substance, which means that for the millions of people suffering from Celiac’s disease or gluten intolerance, it provides a viable alternative as a grain source.
Lowers Cholesterol Levels
The dietary fiber mentioned above also helps to balance cholesterol in the body by eliminating “bad” cholesterol from the cardiovascular system. Furthermore, amaranth contains a huge amount of vitamin K, which is a well-known booster for heart health.
The potassium content in amaranth helps to lower blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels and reducing the strain on the cardiovascular system, thereby lowering the chances of developing atherosclerosis. The high content of phytosterols found in it also contributes to a reduction in “bad” cholesterol.
Eliminates Varicose Veins
While this condition may not affect everyone, varicose veins can be unsightly and embarrassing as we age. Amaranth contains numerous flavonoids, including rutin, which has been directly connected to eliminating varicose veins by strengthening capillary walls. This is also aided by its high concentration of vitamin C, an integral component in the production of collagen, which also helps to repair and strengthen the blood vessel walls.
The significant level of carotenoids and vitamin A found in amaranth leaves is a major boost for eye health, as these antioxidants can prevent macular degeneration and slow/stop the development of cataracts. By lowering oxidative stress in the ocular system, it can help keep your vision healthy and strong for years to come.
Reduces Birth Defects
Folate is often overlooked in terms of essential minerals, but it is particularly important for pregnant mothers. Folate deficiency can result in neural tube defects in newborns. So add some amaranth grains or leaves to your diet and protect your newest little addition to the family!
Considering that an influx of protein in the diet releases a particular “sated” hormone that suppresses the appetite, eating amaranth grains and leaves can help you remain true to your weight loss goals. The dietary fiber is also bulky in your stomach and reduces your appetite by lowering your likelihood to snack between meals and pack on those extra pounds.
If you want to protect the integrity and appearance of your hair, amaranth contains a rare amino acid called lysine that the body cannot naturally produce. This increases your calcium uptake efficiency and helps to keep the hair on your head by strengthening the follicles and preventing male pattern baldness. You can even remove the juice from the leaves and apply it to your hair after shampooing to further strengthen your hair and prevent hair loss.
Word of Caution: Like other green leafy vegetables, amaranth leaves do contain moderate levels of oxalates. For this reason, if you suffer from kidney stones or gallstones, amaranth could exacerbate these conditions. Allergies to amaranth are rare, but they do occur occasionally. The allergic reaction will often occur within minutes, but it is rarely severe. Be sure to consult a medical professional before adding amaranth into your diet and consider undergoing an allergy panel to be sure.